The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle: A Journey Into Madness & Mayhem, by Daniel Friedman and Eugene Friedman ISBN 978-0-7570-0348-6
Five out of five stars
This is really two distinct books wrapped into one, using the common theme of Arthur Conan Doyle to connect them. The first is a biography of Doyle, with the concentration on his life before the smashing success of his Sherlock Holmes stories. He was an MD, yet was never terribly successful at it, so he took up writing. Like so many people that eventually became famous authors, at first publishers expressed very little interest in his Sherlock Holmes stories.
The biography is interesting, for Doyle grew up in difficult circumstances, his father was a talented artist but an unstable drunk. Doyle seemed to always be on the verge of success, yet until the popularity of his Holmes stories exploded, never really got there.
The second “book” is a fictionalized rendition of Doyle taking a group of learned people on a tour of the sites where Jack the Ripper killed his victims. The tour is taking place in 1910, 22 years after the murders took place. The dialog between Doyle and his group covers the facts of the murders as well as the clues that Jack deliberately left behind. This is also interesting, although the dialog is of course fictionalized, the content is not. What is discussed is the facts of each murder as well as informed speculation as to how Jack could kill and then disappear. A point of emphasis is the brutality of the murders, once the deed was done Jack would have to have significant amounts of blood on his clothing. Yet, he was able to escape notice on streets that were patrolled by the police and were often packed with people.
The last section goes off on some very wild speculation, where the premise is put forward that Doyle was in fact Jack the Ripper. This surmise is based on the fact that Jack almost certainly had a detailed knowledge of human anatomy, he had to have been very athletic and was of course very intelligent. All qualities that Doyle possessed. The authors cite very little additional evidence for this conclusion, arguing that Doyle hated prostitutes, blaming them for his father contracting the syphilis that led to his unstable medical condition. While the conclusion is based on little real evidence, it does make for a very interesting conclusion.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.